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‘Anti-lace’ policy in Kazakhstan: What does it ban? 06 марта 2014, 03:49

The ban has become widely known as a ‘ridiculous lace undies ban’, a ‘lacist’ policy and, the smartest version, a ‘non-tariff regulation’. But what is the policy really about? What exactly is banned from being imported to Kazakhstan?
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Photo courtesy of mir24.tv Photo courtesy of mir24.tv
Tempers are flaring in Kazakhstan over an unusual ban that comes into force in June 2014. It originated back in 2003 as a hygienic standard, but caught the public eye only this year, after becoming part of the Customs Union’s technical standards. The ban has become widely known as a ‘ridiculous lace undies ban’, a ‘lacist’ policy and, the smartest version, a ‘non-tariff regulation’. But what is the policy really about? What exactly is banned from being imported to Kazakhstan? “The technical regulation contains nothing against laсe underwear, the word lace is not even mentioned there. The regulation says: hygroscopicity standard for underwear,” Lyubov Maslatsova, Technical Auditor of Textile Businesses at the Association of Light Industry Enterprises of Kazakhstan told Tengrinews. So what does hygroscopility or absorption mean? Is it a standard for some diaper-like lace panties that are supposed to absorb 6 percent of anything seeping into them? It is definitely not. Absorption property of a fabric is its equilibrium moisture content after the fabric is exposed to air humidity under given conditions. That the definition. But speaking English, absorption is not about absorbing anything seeping in the panties, it is about the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air and the temperature of a human body. Fabric with sufficient hydroscopic property acts as a temperature mediator between the human body and the environment. “The 6% standard has been set because fabrics with this abortion property are the most comfortable ones for a human body. It is not a draconic standard. It is very realistic at is absolutely achievable for producers,” the technical auditor continued. According to the expert, “it is ridiculous to interpret the regulation as a lace ban”, because it sets the standard to make sure that only proper blended fabrics are used in making of underwear, and it does not influence laces in any way: “Lace of excellent quality and magnificent beauty is made of the blended fabrics that comply with the absorption requirement,” Mrs. Maslatsova said, adding that it is a common practice in underwear design to install a soft hydroscopic liner that is usually made of fabrics with high cotton content. “The absorption parameter of pure cotton is at over 10%” and this practice greatly improves the absorption of the underwear and brings it up to the standard. So, it looks like it is not really difficult to comply with the standard. Since the regulation has no problem with laces, than what is it banning? Underwear made in Europe and America is of excellent quality and exceeds the standard of 6% by far. “Take the countries that we always look up to, Europe and America, the underwear they produce meets even stricter standards, the absorption is as high as 8%,” the textile industries auditor said. Underwear produced in Belarus – take the well-known firm Melovitsa – also has not problem complying. So, this standard is not even a non-tariff regulation, because it is not targeting any foreign competitors, and Kazakhstan has no underwear producers of its own. The only source of non-compliant produce is crossborder traffic from the neighboring countries like China, most of it illegal. It floods the Kazakhstan market and constitutes almost 90% of all the underwear in the country, according to Lyubov Maslatsova. The market is grassroots and is very hard to control, both in terms of taxes and quality. Besides, everything that gets into Kazakhstan also gets to the larger three-country-market. The Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus has been dealing with both – taxes and quality standards – since its creation on January 1, 2010, and the underwear case is no exception. The counterfeit underwear is cheap, which is definitely an advantage, and not all of it is incompliant with the standard. But some of the items at the uncontrolled flea market of underwear are indeed not body-friendly. Use of improper fabrics for making of the delicate clothes causes rash, allergies, eruptions and all kinds of skin problems. And the regulation will serve as a screening tool to filter out the unsafe items. So, to make it short, the 6% absorption standard targets illegal traffic of underwear that is not safe to wear. By Tatyana Kuzmina

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